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09.01.2013 (3986 Days Ago)

Topics of interest from BCMC member Lisa Quattrocchi about Conservation and BC Parks.

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BCMC Comments on Garibaldi Park Management Plan Draft Amendments
BCMC Comments on Garibaldi Park Management Plan Draft Amendments
3986 days ago 0 comments Category: Park Huts

The BCMC's comments on the Garibaldi Park Management Plan Draft Amendments are outlined below. They are based on discussions by the FMCBC SW Conservation Committee, and on input from individual BC Mountaineering Club members.



You may wish to use these comments to guide your personal submission to BC Parks:




We welcome your feedback!


Jennie Aikman, Regional Planner
BC Parks
PO Box 3010
Cultus Lake, BC  V2R 5H6

Re: Garibaldi Park Management Plan Amendment for the Spearhead Area - DRAFT

The British Columbia Mountaineering Club (BCMC) has over 500 members who are active in all aspects of non-motorized recreation in the backcountry, including hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering and backcountry skiing. Of all public organizations, our club has probably had the longest association with Garibaldi Park, having organized many camps and numerous shorter trips within the area for over 100 years. The park was established in 1927 following a campaign mainly by mountaineers, particularly BCMC members. Efforts by the BCMC to get the park established began in 1913 when James Bishop, then the club’s honorary president, advocated the creation of a park, based on the club’s discovery of the Mt. Garibaldi – Black Tusk area. The first 2 summer camps of the BCMC, in 1910 and 1911, were based on the Paul Ridge – Elfin Lakes area and provided a view towards the Black Tusk area, the destination for club summer camps in 5 of the next 6 years. BCMC members, lead by club president, Billy Gray, constructed the first trail into the Garibaldi Lake – Black Tusk meadows area in 1912. Gray also produced the first map of the Garibaldi Lake area in 1913. The trail and map, together with publicizing of the area lead to increased visitation. This together with lobbying by mountaineering interests resulted in the establishment of the park.

Since the park was created, our club has organized many official trips and camps into the area, and our members have visited the Park countless times on their own. It is hoped that BC Parks will consider the BCMC’s strong ties to Garibaldi Park when reviewing our comments on the Master Plan Draft Amendments.


Francis St-Pierre
British Columbia Mountaineering Club

Section 5.2.1 - Land Management

  1. What do you support in Section 5.2.1?

We support the recommendations in this section.

  1. Is there anything you do not support in Section 5.2.1?


  1. Is there anything missing in Section 5.2.1?

There needs to be a free access route through the controlled recreation area managed by Whistler-Blackcomb.

Section 6.2.1 - Hiking/Backpacking

  1. What do you support in Section 6.2.1?

We support building the proposed new trails.

  1. Is there anything you do not support in Section 6.2.1?


  1. Is there anything missing in Section 6.2.1?

Existing trails need to be assessed for maintenance and improvements that may be needed. Resources should be directed to these requirements prior to the construction of new trails.

Section 6.2.3 - Mountain Biking
Due to the fairly recent origins of mountain biking, and the potential controversy over some aspects of mountain biking, the BCMC does not have a public position at this time regarding this activity.

Section 6.2.4 - Winter Recreation [Backcountry Huts]

  1. What do you support in Section 6.2.4?

We support this section.

  1. Is there anything you do not support in Section 6.2.4?


  1. Is there anything missing in Section 6.2.4?

As this section will likely be applied to the construction of the Spearhead huts, and use of this area continues to increase, it is essential to determine its carrying capacity. There may be a point at which the number of users must be limited in order to preserve the area and maintain a high quality experience.

Section 6.2.5 - Commercial Recreation Services Heli-Skiing

  1. What do you support in Section 6.2.5?

We agree that no new areas should be considered within the park for additional heli-skiing and that BC Parks should work with the heli-ski operator to add value for other park users.

  1. Is there anything you do not support in Section 6.2.5?

The BCMC opposes that “heli-skiing opportunities will continue to be a recreation service offered in the park”. The Spearhead has potential to become a world-class ski tour, in a category of its own like the Haute Route in Europe. As ski touring traffic increases in the Spearhead area, conflict with heli-skiing will increase. In order to provide a high-quality experience for non-motorized users in the relatively small area of the Spearhead, we believe that Parks must have guidance which will allow them to discontinue heli-skiing in Garibaldi Park.

We disagree with the analysis that “the ongoing operation of Whistler Heli-Skiing is important to Whistler’s economy and contributes to the diversity of the recreational opportunities offered in the park”. Whistler Heli-Skiing is only one of many heli-skiing providers; only a small percentage of their tenure lies within the park and as such the economic impact of phasing out heli-skiing from the Park has not been demonstrated and is believed in fact to be negligible. Furthermore, heli-skiing is not a distinct form of recreation, just a variation of backcountry skiing but involving extensive motorized access, and as such adds no recreational diversity to the park whatsoever.

We do not agree that “the presence of the heli-ski operator in the park provides an important measure of public safety”. We see two main aspects in response to a serious incident: notification of the incident and response to the incident. Given that weather conditions may not allow for helicopter flight and rescue, self-propelled backcountry users rely primarily on self rescue and carry electronic emergency communication equipment (such as satellite phone or SPOT devices) enabling prompt notification of an emergency condition. Therefore we see no advantage in having Whistler Heli-Skiing present in the Park from an incident notification point of view. Regarding incident response, in the event of a serious incident requiring helicopter assistance, one cannot rely on Whistler Heli-Skiing being close by and in a position to assist immediately. In fact, should one of their helicopters be nearby, it would likely be carrying clients and would need to return to their base to drop them off and pick up Search and Rescue or medical personnel. These logistical limitations negate any advantage in having Whistler Heli-Skiing present in the Park over other helicopter operators in increasing public safety through improved incident response.

The BCMC does not agree that conflicts between non-motorized users and heli-skiers “can be mitigated through appropriate hut siting”. Hut sites should be selected to minimize environmental impact and maximize public safety; there is no room to consider the concerns of commercial heli-ski operators.

  1. Is there anything missing in Section 6.2.5?

The BCMC strongly believes that heli-skiing should be phased out of Garibaldi Park. Garibaldi Park is one of the last bastions of non-motorized access near Vancouver that can be protected and the continuation of heli-skiing in the park threatens this vision. As all non-motorized users can attest, motorized access by helicopter takes away a significant portion of the enjoyment of being in the backcountry. Heli-skiers and non-motorized backcountry skiers compete for the same resource, but with highly unequal access methods. As a direct result of the high efficiency of motorized access, heli-skiers “track-out” areas quickly while the noise of helicopters disturbs the tranquility that other users seek in the park.

As long as heli-skiing does continue in the park, an avoidance protocol should exist prohibiting heli-skiing in the park on weekends, holidays, and other peak times. Also, given that a helicopter can fly to another area in a fraction of the time that it takes non-motorized backcountry skiers to change their destination, the former must defer to the latter when both wish to use the same area. Therefore a non-peak time avoidance protocol giving preference to non-motorized backcountry skiers must be put in place and publicized with all users. Such avoidance protocol should provide guidance to Park Personnel on how to resolve conflict that will inevitably occur as long as heli-skiing is permitted within the Park. Non-motorized users must be well informed of this protocol so they can report to the right party any infractions by Whistler Heli-Skiing.

Until heli-skiing is phased out of the park, tenures should not exceed five years and should have strict conditions on their renewal, such as adherence to the avoidance protocol. Over and above this, renewal should not be granted if feedback from other user groups indicate that, through noise or “tracking out”, heli-skiing has adversely affected their experience.  

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